Pierce County courtrooms can be pretty uptight places, so before he encouraged his extended family to show up at adoption court wearing Seattle Seahawks jerseys, Lyle Hauenstein asked the county adoption coordinator if it would be OK.
“She said it most definitely would,” he said.
That surprised him a little bit.
But it didn’t surprise him nearly as much as when he and his wife, Gretchen, and his stepdaughter Savannah — accompanied by more than enough relatives to staff a full offensive team — trooped into the Remann Hall courtroom Friday morning.
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Judge Susan K. Serko was up on the dais, decked out in Seahawks gear herself.
“I just wanted to support this beautiful family,” said Serko, who wore jersey No. 89 — the number of wide receiver Doug Baldwin.
“Adoption days are pretty special days around here,” the judge said, “and anything we can do to make them even more special, we do it.”
Hauenstein, 39, is a supervisor in the city of Tacoma’s Solid Waste division. He and Gretchen live in Parkland with their two girls — 14-year-old Savannah, Gretchen’s biological daughter, and 6-year-old Taylor, whom they had together.
Savannah’s biological father did not show an interest in connecting with her, Hauenstein said, and he was more than happy to fill the void.
“Slowly, she started making that decision on her own,” he said, “to a point where, on her 12th birthday, I asked her if she wanted me to adopt her. She said ‘yes.’ ”
Hauenstein passed out Skittles in the courtroom, and after a few lighthearted questions, Serko pronounced that from that time forward, Savannah Connell would legally be known as Savannah Hauenstein.
Hauenstein, whom Savannah said she couldn’t remember not knowing and whom she has called “Dad” for years, was officially her father in the eyes of the law.
Adoption attorney Michele Hinz took photos of everybody up on the judge’s podium.
Savannah sat in Serko’s chair, holding her gavel.
“Everybody say, ‘Savannah,’ ” Hinz said, encouraging them to smile.
“Everybody say, ‘Skittles.’ ”
Savannah shed some happy tears afterward.
Coming together in court, all dressed as Seahawks, was “kind of a family idea,” the teen said, and she was completely OK with it.
“It makes it clear that we’re all a family,” she said. “Not that we haven’t been before, but this really says it.”